There are several strange British laws which add credence to a quote made by Mark Twain in 1897. He wrote in his travel book 'truth is stranger than fiction'.
Nowhere is it more so than in this collection of the weirdest and most stupid UK laws that still exist and are not yet withdrawn from statute.
The Law Commission has the responsibility of pruning the statute book. They remove outdated regulations or pointless legislation.
But it appears they are a tad slow at doing their job, according to this concise list of Britain's weirdest laws.
Bizarre laws exist in every country. But you can find some strange British rules still functioning and in existence today.
The main aim of this section is to show how the implausibility of truth is a poor match for senseless and illogical law making.
According to rulers:
We assembled this entertaining collection of odd UK laws in no particular ranking order. Even so, most of these outdated British old laws still in effect today, defy belief and logic.
Thus, it might be difficult to choose the most stupid English laws from a concise list of so many ridiculous British rules. Here are some 'questionable' modern and historical rules that stand out the most.
English law prohibits MPs from wearing armour inside the Houses of Parliament. The Statute in United Kingdom history 'Coming armed to Parliament' was never repealed. Strange English laws don't get much stranger!
The Statute forbidding Bearing of Armour (1313) was an attempt by Edward II to prevent threats of force inside parliament. Even so, reports suggest that the Earl of Lancaster still carried weaponry until 1319.
It has been illegal to shake or beat a carpet rug in the streets of the Metropolitan Police District since 1839. An old 19th-century law banned the beating of carpets during the day time in London.
The ancient Metropolitan Police Act claims responsibility for this oddball law in England. Nonetheless, there is a stranger UK law which may surpass it. Shaking and beating doormats in the street is fine, providing you shake and beat them before 8am.
It gets better:
While we're on the topic of strange street laws in Britain. Keeping a pigsty in front of your house is breaking the law.
Slaughtering cattle in the street is illegal - thankfully. And, driving cattle through the streets can get you a £200 fine (per head).
Talking of funny UK laws, singing indecent, rude, or profane songs in a public place, or flying a kite in the street, could land you in serious trouble and end with a visit from the local police constabulary.
Ringing a neighbour's doorbell then fleeing the scene is worthy of a severe reprimand. Assuming if you ever get caught!
It may sound like the most bizarre rule in Britain, but there are many more below. However, carrying a plank along the pavement is illegal.
Many strange UK laws become statute to ensure unobstructed people movement along public thoroughfares.
But we question the logic behind this strange but true UK law. This weird UK Law Act originates from 1839.
Funnily enough, the same statute also bans sliding on snow and playing 'annoying games'.
It is the ancient Metropolitan Police Act 1839 which is to blame. It makes it an offence for people to carry any tub, cask, hoop, ladders, wheels, poles or planks on a footway.
UK Law Exception: Carrying a plank is fine when it's carried for the loading or unloading any cart or carriage.
Now does that sound like a crazy British law or not? But in fact it is 100 percent true and a serious contender for the top spot in the craziest UK laws. The enactment took place to reduce alcohol consumption and to encourage sobriety among the poor.
Urban myth clarifies it with a different aspect. It is more illegal for the pub owner to allow drunkenness in his licenced establishment. Well doesn't that sound better?
The enforcement of this law comes under three separate and funny laws that still exist:
You may have guessed it already but there are even more UK-wide strange laws about alcohol. From 1872 it has been illegal to be drunk and in charge of a horse or a cow (in Scotland).
Furthermore, one policy in Scotland obligates you to allow any person into your home if they knock on your door and make a request to use the toilet.
Strangely enough, the same rule applies to being drunk while carrying a loaded firearm. Well... that one seems quite sensible to us!
Note: According to the Libraries Offences Act 1898, the law prohibits gambling in a public library in Britain.
It appears this one happened once on Christmas Day in 1644. The date fell on a legally mandated fasting day.
Thus, it would have been illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day for that particular date in the history of the United Kingdom.
In fact, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas in the United Kingdom for a while. The monarchy restored the laws and invalidated the outrageous plan to ban Christmas in the UK.
This entertaining tidbit of lawful information is not so strange and very true. Where a sign tells you to queue (or a staff member), jumping the queue is illegal - under TfL byelaws.
You must not queue-jump! You must wait your turn from the back instead. It is perhaps the most sensible British law through and through.
It is not illegal to destroy a banknote. What's more, we could not think of a reason why you would. Even so, the Currency and Banknotes Act 1928 rule for defacing a banknote by drawing, printing, or stamping on it - makes it illegal. The same law governs the destruction of coinage.
Note: Because British stamps depict an image of the Queen's face, it is considered illegal to stick a stamp on an envelope upside down.
The aim of the Salmon Act 1986 was to ban the poaching of salmon. When it became law, it made it illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances.
Yet, we are still waiting for The Law Commission to clarify what would be the most suspicious way to handle a salmon.
Swans, that are wild or unmarked mute swans in open water, are the lawful property of the Queen. Killing one of these swans would be close to an act of treason and has been since the 12th century.
But, the Queen has no rightful claim on tame swans, or any other types of swan for that matter. Yet, only the Queen of England is allowed to eat swan meat.
Note: Another section explains how to get a message from the Queen (e.g. for a special celebration or reaching a major milestone).
Most employers are cautious on handing out a reference with negative comments. Bad references are 'subjective' anyway and a complicated topic to cover in this section. But, receiving a bad reference from your employer may constitute character defamation or libel.
According to the UK employment laws, your employer can choose to be non-committal or not give one at all.
But they would be hesitant about giving a bad one too. In fact, they may need to defend themselves in a UK court-of-law if the recipient decides to sue for libel.
The BBC is a state-based entity providing national and international media broadcasting services. In most part, the licence fee funds the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It allows them to offer programs ahead of other commercial and advertising interests.
Even though it is a contentious topic, using a television in the UK without a TV licence is punishable by law and can result in a severe fine.
Free Television Licence | Seniors do not pay for TV licences from the age of 75 in the United Kingdom.
Weird Unusual Sports | A list of crazy activities and uncommon games that appeal to an elitist minority.
Everyone in the country should obey the terms of the Protection of Wrecks Order 2003. It states that a person must not enter the hull of the Titanic without permission.
Note: Please contact the Secretary of State to get permission if this is your idea of a memorable weekend away.
This strange UK law comes under the terms of the Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004. In short, it states:
"No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes."
The Defence Of the Realm Act 1914 became law in Britain on August 8th 1914, only four days after the United Kingdom entered into the First World War.
The purpose of introducing the rules of DORA World War 1 was to afford the government a wide range of powers during the war period.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 was recently added to British law. In some cases making your burglar alarm active and leaving the premises is an offence.
Hence, you must nominate a key-holder to disarm the siren if it goes off while you are away.
In case you were wondering:
Other UK laws about noise include sounding a horn on a road in a stationary vehicle. So, under the UK Highway Code, you should only do so if there is imminent danger from another vehicle on or near the road.
Use car horns to signify danger instead of someone else's annoyance and you will abide by the rule of law in the United Kingdom.
This not so 'weird laws in the UK' is part of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (Public Conveyances). It could be illegal to ride in public transport if you know you have a notifiable disease.
You should inform the driver if you have the plague (or similar). The taxi driver can still choose to transport you. But only if they have the vehicle disinfected immediately afterwards.
Note: It is against the law for a bus driver to allow people with a notifiable disease on board.
Do you pay income tax in the United Kingdom? Are you familiar with the Tax Avoidance Scheme 2006, S.I. 2006 No 1543? HMRC UK Tax Laws govern the disclosure of all schemes which have tax avoidance as their purpose.
Now there are weird UK laws, and then there are downright crazy UK laws that are unbelievable. The terms of the Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998 make it illegal to cause a nuclear explosion.
Does the United Kingdom need a special law on preventing nuclear explosions? I guess so and I hope the law prevails!
Important: The content in this article about strange and stupid laws in the United Kingdom does not replace legal advice from a professional.
Old, Outdated, and Stupid British Laws that Still Exist Today